Courage has many faces. As with beauty, so is fear in the eye of the beholder. Something that requires a degree of courage for me, may in fact be effortless for you. For example, several of my friends have lately raved about zip lining. However, in spite of their enthusiasm and reassurances that it is quite risk free, I am resistant.
Why? The short answer: “Physical vulnerability.” When my partner and I lived in Thailand, we had a motorcycle accident. A careless driver drove his bike into us at fairly high speed while we were making a legal right turn on ours. I was catapulted off the bike for some feet, planting my face squarely on the pavement. Luckily I was wearing a helmet with a brim, which kept most of my face damage free. When I picked myself up, I realized I had broken one of my front teeth from the impact. My right leg was also quite badly hurt. Thankfully it was not broken, but there was significant soft tissue damage. This took literally months to heal completely so that I could walk 100% pain-free. I was thankful I was alive, but nonetheless, my inability to take my long daily walks felt like a high price to pay.
We bought a larger motorcycle (and better helmets!) and traveled that way for the duration of our time in Thailand. It was simply the most suitable transportation choice for various reasons. But every single time I got on the bike (I was always the passenger), I had to overcome the fear of having another accident. Riding a motorcycle became an exercise in courage. It was good for me, for in time I did gain some comfort level and somewhat relaxed about it. Life had presented me with a situation that forced me to push my internal boundaries.
This little story is just part of a larger one. 16+ years ago, we sold all of our material possessions to travel and see some of the world. This is highly unusual; there are not many examples or mentors for this life path. And, in the North American culture it went against the model of what is expected in a person’s mid-forties. We were “supposed to be” accumulating the material signs of success, not throwing them away. We did not conform to the required formula for life.
Before we left, my sister hugged me saying, “You are brave, Susan.” I remember shrugging it off as nothing. But, now in retrospect I would say to her, “Yes, I am”. For are we not all, when we push the boundaries of our comfort level? I have faced many personal challenges in my years of travel. And in it, my greatest hurdle has been missing my family and close friends back home. Yes, in this world of technology it has become increasingly easy and affordable to stay in touch. But, these methods do not hold a candle to the day-to-day joys of being near the ones you love.
Life is full of choices. Some are small, others large. And the big ones inevitably present us with trials that embody one fear or another. Based on my experiences, I believe that facing our fears and moving through them does in fact help us to build a “courage arsenal”. As with love, our moxie and grit expand the more we use them. I’ve discovered new worlds, as well as abilities in myself, that I never would have without taking some risk. In the final analysis, that has been the great reward.
And, who knows? Perhaps some day I will even slay that zip line dragon!
“Making Friends with Fear” © Susan L Hart. All rights reserved.